“‘But the Levitical priests, who are descendants of Zadok and who guarded my sanctuary when the Israelites went astray from me, are to come near to minister before me; they are to stand before me to offer sacrifices of fat and blood, declares the Sovereign LORD. They alone are to enter my sanctuary; they alone are to come near my table to minister before me and serve me as guards.’” — Ezekiel 44:15–16
The Torah portion for this week is Emor, which means “speak,” from Leviticus 21:1–24:23, and the Haftorah is from Ezekiel 44:15–31.
The bad news is that we are living in an increasingly volatile world that has lost its moral compass and godly values. We face spiritual destruction internally as so many people turn away from God and run after material things. We face destruction of the values which we stand for on a global scale as extreme terrorism spreads its long tentacles to every continent in the world. As Jews, we feel this moral decline more powerfully as anti-Semitism continues to rise steadily all over the world and Israel faces threats of complete annihilation.
Today, five-year-old Jewish children in the United Kingdom are being trained to respond to a possible terrorist infiltration into their schools. In France, pious Jews are taking off their yarmulkes out of fear of being attacked. In the United States, anti-Israel movements have taken college campuses by storm. The clarity of what is right and who is right is lost on the majority of our world.
But here’s the good news: The decline in society’s morality is our opportunity to shine. It’s a chance to stand out from the crowd before God and to prove who we are and what we believe. The good news is that God doesn’t forget the good deeds of the righteous, and He rewards those who stand up for what is right.
In this week’s Haftorah reading from the book of Ezekiel, the prophet singled out a particular family of priests — a family by the name of Zadok, which incidentally means “correct” or “righteous.” The prophet explained that while all the other priests turned away from God as the nation of Israel strayed from God, only this family remained loyal. This family alone refused to follow the crowd and remained faithful to God. As a result, the other priests were banned from entering God’s sanctuary and performing the main services of the Temple. However, the Zadok family was rewarded with the great privilege of being the exclusive ministers in the house of God. One can only imagine the awesome reward that they received in the afterlife.
I want to encourage us all to join the family of Zadok. Be a beacon of light in a sea of darkness. Don’t be afraid to say what is right and do what is moral and ethical. Speak out to your friends, family, and community about the importance of supporting Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East – a region of the world that is falling more into the hands of extreme terrorists every day. While we pray for the day when all people will recognize God, today is our day to demonstrate that we are loyal, unshakable, faithful servants of the Lord.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President